Chalk Circle Short Story Competition 2020

https://www.chalkcircle.org.uk/competitions-judges-report-2020

Read ‘Teacups Are For Girls’ here: https://ataraxicat.com/2020/04/05/teacups-are-for-girls/

https://www.chalkcircle.org.uk/competitions-winners-2020

Lunar You

when we find ourselves
together, I glow

like the moon

sometimes, it seems
so perfect – a soft light

like the moon

our shapes wax
and do not wane

like the moon

but then I reach out
and can touch only air.

I wonder about the eclipse
of you and I, and turn pale

like the moon

Stage Fright

Gunther did not remember much about his death. In fact, the moment had passed somewhat uneventfully and, had it not been for the audience’s few gasps of surprise and an ill-timed giggle, he might have thought he’d dreamt it up altogether. 

Emily had been sat in the second row, slightly left of centre stage – not that he’d been able to see his wife during much of the performance itself. The stage lamps had masked the audience from the players with a brilliantly intense void of white light. He had felt the glow draw conspicuous beads of sweat to his forehead almost the instant he had taken his first steps on stage, like the rapid onset of fever. It had felt like being in the presence of a dying star. 

Continue reading “Stage Fright”

The Pigeon

I was seven when
the neighbour’s cat caught a pigeon
and dragged its twittering, tattered trunk 
through our kitchen.

The cat and her mouth,
now clean and empty, seemed innocent,
but the errant trail of crumpled feathers
gave it up.

We hid it from mam,
stayed up in shifts, fostered and fed it sugar
water from a spoon, playing each other’s 
game of nurse.

I remember the thrill
waiting for the magical renewal we were
led to expect: a resurgence promised that
would never come.

It fell still then,
its beak soaked, sticky with sugar, as its
drowned and silent body lay between us,
ruined and scrap.

Sometimes I wake from 
shadowed dreams to see the smothered thing
in its throes, and I do not sleep. We were not
what you think.

Some Give

I don’t feel bad about how
the world might be ending –
and I don’t feel guilty,
if that’s what you’re getting at.

I’m more concerned about how
I can feel myself bending –
a little like this, at first
and also, somehow, like that.

Brother

When it gets late, we watch Cops on TV,
once all the rest have made their way to bed.
Then you make cheese on toast, and I make tea –
we feel inclined to sit up late, instead –
and though our conversation is quite plain,
you’ll show me something funny on your phone,
and when we laugh our ribs vibrate with pain,
as though at something we should have outgrown.
At three or four o’clock we start to shrink;
my tired mind begins to wonder whether
you’ll think about us sitting here, in sync,
when you and I no longer live together.
For me, it’s that I’ll miss, though it seems trite –
when we watch Cops together late at night.

Love Letter

You write about the moon
its opalescence
a bowl of shadow and pearls

the way it paints over 
everything it sees
the world in pallid gloss

You write about art
its multitudes
the lawlessness of expression

the ghost that shapes
everything we do
the bent arm behind us

You write about love
its essence
and of the helplessness

the violent shooting heart 
without restraint
the thunder after the strike

You write 
You write
You write

and it makes me sick

Ghost


It was you that taught me
to put newspaper between
the bottles so they don’t clink
when you put the bins out,
and how to read a map;
you’re handy like that –
a born navigator

I still get lost.

There’s a rolling boil deep
in my chest these days,
rumbling in my tight throat;
I let it out in slow sighs,
like bleeding a radiator,
and pick plaster off the walls
you built in the house

I still get lost.

Listen to the soft fricatives
of the leaves outside;
I think it’s autumn now, and
I still see you in the bath water,
and smell you in the sea –
I want to hear it over and over.
I wish you’d tell me

so I don’t get lost.

Only Dickheads Ride Vespas


Alex watched a large brown fly circle the sticky perimeter of his glass, and wiped the sweat from the back of his neck. The heat was stifling, and his focus had long since shifted from his parents’ conversation to the distant, silver spatter of the municipal fountain on the far side of the smouldering plaza. He imagined himself beneath its aquamarine deluge – feeling the cool water sweep into his armpits, and slick down, across the backs of his knees. He fancied he could smell the scent of chlorine and pennies from where he was sat, but the fantasy soon fell apart in the heat of the airless day.

He turned his attention back to his parents. His father was three minutes into one of his recapitulated monologues on how the game had all changed since the 1970s, and how Alex’s generation couldn’t possibly hope to recreate such a prodigious era. From the bits and pieces that he had tuned into, Alex knew that his father had already covered the problems with digital refereeing, and obscene player pay packets – “It just beggars belief, son.” – and would soon circle back to good old-fashioned love of the game.   

Continue reading “Only Dickheads Ride Vespas”